How were copies of the canon of scriptures made before the printing press was invented? Were people killed for printing and distributing the published Bible and are they considered as martyrs for the Christian Faith? Do we fully appreciate the access we have to the Word of God and what Christians went through in the history of Christianity to publish it?
..Another thoughtful and thought provoking question.
Here's an article from gotquestions.org which addresses the canon of scripture:
Question: "What is the canon of Scripture?"
Answer: The word “canon” comes from the rule of law that was used to determine if a book measured up to a standard. It is important to note that the writings of Scripture were canonical at the moment they were written. Scripture was Scripture when the pen touched the parchment. This is very important because Christianity does not start by defining God, or Jesus Christ, or salvation. The basis of Christianity is found in the authority of Scripture. If we cannot identify what Scripture is, then we cannot properly distinguish any theological truth from error.
What measure or standard was used to determine which books should be classified as Scripture? A key verse to understanding the process and purpose, and perhaps the timing of the giving of Scripture, is Jude 3 which states that a Christian's faith “was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Since our faith is defined by Scripture, Jude is essentially saying that Scripture was given once for the benefit of all Christians. Isn't it wonderful to know that there are no hidden or lost manuscripts yet to be found, there are no secret books only familiar to a select few, and there are no people alive who have special revelation requiring us to trek up a Himalayan mountain in order to be enlightened? We can be confident that God has not left us without a witness. The same supernatural power God used to produce His Word has also been used to preserve it.
Psalm 119:160 states that the entirety of God's Word is truth. Starting with that premise, we can compare writings outside the accepted canon of Scripture to see if they meet the test. As an example, the Bible claims that Jesus Christ is God (Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:22-23; John 1:1, 2, 14, 20:28; Acts 16:31, 34; Philippians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1). Yet many extra-biblical texts, claiming to be Scripture, argue that Jesus is not God. When clear contradictions exist, the established Bible is to be trusted, leaving the others outside the sphere of Scripture.
In the early centuries of the church, Christians were sometimes put to death for possessing copies of Scripture. Because of this persecution, the question soon came up, “What books are worth dying for?” Some books may have contained sayings of Jesus, but were they inspired as stated in 2 Timothy 3:16? Church councils played a role in publicly recognizing the canon of Scripture, but often an individual church or groups of churches recognized a book as inspired from its writing (e.g., Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27). Throughout the early centuries of the church, few books were ever disputed and the list was basically settled by A.D. 303.
When it came to the Old Testament, three important facts were considered: 1) The New Testament quotes from or alludes to every Old Testament book but two. 2) Jesus effectively endorsed the Hebrew canon in Matthew 23:35 when He cited one of the first narratives and one of the last in the Scriptures of His day. 3) The Jews were meticulous in preserving the Old Testament Scriptures, and they had few controversies over what parts belong or do not belong. The Roman Catholic Apocrypha did not measure up and fell outside the definition of Scripture and has never been accepted by the Jews.
Most questions about which books belong in the Bible dealt with writings from the time of Christ and forward. The early church had some very specific criteria in order for books to be considered as part of the New Testament. These included: Was the book written by someone who was an eyewitness of Jesus Christ? Did the book pass the “truth test”? (i.e., did it concur with other, already agreed-upon Scripture?). The New Testament books they accepted back then have endured the test of time and Christian orthodoxy has embraced these, with little challenge, for centuries.
Confidence in the acceptance of specific books dates back to the first century recipients who offered firsthand testimony as to their authenticity. Furthermore, the end-time subject matter of the book of Revelation, and the prohibition of adding to the words of the book in Revelation 22:18, argue strongly that the canon was closed at the time of its writing (c. A.D. 95).
There is an important theological point that should not be missed. God has used His word for millennia for one primary purpose—to reveal Himself and communicate to mankind. Ultimately, the church councils did not decide if a book was Scripture; that was decided when the human author was chosen by God to write. In order to accomplish the end result, including the preservation of His Word through the centuries, God guided the early church councils in their recognition of the canon.
The acquisition of knowledge regarding such things as the true nature of God, the origin of the universe and life, the purpose and meaning of life, the wonders of salvation, and future events (including the destiny of mankind) are beyond the natural observational and scientific capacity of mankind. The already-delivered Word of God, valued and personally applied by Christians for centuries, is sufficient to explain to us everything we need to know of Christ (John 5:18; Acts 18:28; Galatians 3:22; 2 Timothy 3:15) and to teach us, correct us, and instruct us into all righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
Recommended Resource: The Canon of Scripture by F.F. Bruce
and another article:
Question: "How and when was the canon of the Bible put together?"
Answer: The term “canon” is used to describe the books that are divinely inspired and therefore belong in the Bible. The difficulty in determining the biblical canon is that the Bible does not give us a list of the books that belong in the Bible. Determining the canon was a process conducted first by Jewish rabbis and scholars and later by early Christians. Ultimately, it was God who decided what books belonged in the biblical canon. A book of Scripture belonged in the canon from the moment God inspired its writing. It was simply a matter of God’s convincing His human followers which books should be included in the Bible.
Compared to the New Testament, there was much less controversy over the canon of the Old Testament. Hebrew believers recognized God’s messengers and accepted their writings as inspired of God. While there was undeniably some debate in regards to the Old Testament canon, by A.D. 250 there was nearly universal agreement on the canon of Hebrew Scripture. The only issue that remained was the Apocrypha, with some debate and discussion continuing today. The vast majority of Hebrew scholars considered the Apocrypha to be good historical and religious documents, but not on the same level as the Hebrew Scriptures.
For the New Testament, the process of the recognition and collection began in the first centuries of the Christian church. Very early on, some of the New Testament books were being recognized. Paul considered Luke’s writings to be as authoritative as the Old Testament (1 Timothy 5:18; see also Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7). Peter recognized Paul’s writings as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). Some of the books of the New Testament were being circulated among the churches (Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27). Clement of Rome mentioned at least eight New Testament books (A.D. 95). Ignatius of Antioch acknowledged about seven books (A.D. 115). Polycarp, a disciple of John the apostle, acknowledged 15 books (A.D. 108). Later, Irenaeus mentioned 21 books (A.D. 185). Hippolytus recognized 22 books (A.D. 170-235). The New Testament books receiving the most controversy were Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John.
The first “canon” was the Muratorian Canon, which was compiled in AD 170. The Muratorian Canon included all of the New Testament books except Hebrews, James, and 3 John. In AD 363, the Council of Laodicea stated that only the Old Testament (along with one book of the Apocrypha) and 26 books of the New Testament (everything but Revelation) were canonical and to be read in the churches. The Council of Hippo (AD 393) and the Council of Carthage (AD 397) also affirmed the same 27 books as authoritative.
The councils followed something similar to the following principles to determine whether a New Testament book was truly inspired by the Holy Spirit: 1) Was the author an apostle or have a close connection with an apostle? 2) Is the book being accepted by the body of Christ at large? 3) Did the book contain consistency of doctrine and orthodox teaching? 4) Did the book bear evidence of high moral and spiritual values that would reflect a work of the Holy Spirit? Again, it is crucial to remember that the church did not determine the canon. No early church council decided on the canon. It was God, and God alone, who determined which books belonged in the Bible. It was simply a matter of God’s imparting to His followers what He had already decided. The human process of collecting the books of the Bible was flawed, but God, in His sovereignty, and despite our ignorance and stubbornness, brought the early church to the recognition of the books He had inspired.
Recommended Resource: The Canon of Scripture by F.F. Bruce
There have been and continue to be many attacks on the preservation of God's Word. Since enemies of God can't shut it down by getting rid of it, they try different tactics such as trying to tear down it's reliability... Slandering God's character, declaring it's not trustworthy, or it's outdated, saying it demeans women, or that it has too many contradictions... etc... None of these accusations are true. These attacks will never stop. We're in a spiritual battle.
Do we fully appreciate the access we have? Probably not. This discussion is a good way to get us thinking and aware.
The bible is a treasure and gives humanity the answers to all the things that matter. This collection of 66 books points us to the living Word, Jesus Messiah. Jesus shows us what He intended for us from the beginning. It's the greatest love story ever told of how God our Creator pursues us even when we are bound and determined to run from Him, to live in sin and do things our own way. The Old Testament gives very clear examples of the consequences of running from God. He pursues us still. When we finally stop running, HE continues to shape us, counsel us, direct us, guide us. He will never leave us or forsake us, and we are in the best place we can possibly be when we realize it and let Him. The word submission has been given a bad reputation, but when we're submitting to the ONE who created us, and loves us the most, it's exactly where we need to be. We are safe in submitting ourselves to Jesus. He is Love, and everything HE has done, presently does and will do is in complete agreement with His character and identity of LOVE. In short, God is love, and HE has preserved His word so that we will get to know Him as HE is.
I pray that all people who presently reject HIM will have their hearts of stone replaced with a heart of flesh, and they will see and receive Jesus for who HE is and what HE has done for all who believe. I also pray that those of us who already believe will fully appreciate and be thankful for what we have in our possession and handle it with care, respect and responsibility... That we will rightly divide the word of truth. Study it and let The Holy Spirit have His way in our lives.
Good questions Amanda, Happy to see you back with these questions. What I’m finding is, that a lot of people, and even preachers, teachers, and priest are treating the bible as if it were a common book, it seems they have gotten away from the Spirit of the Word and leaning to their own understanding, based mainly on experiences, and what can be proven intellectually, what can be proven from traditions. I’m posting on the blog section something I read in a book by Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism. I just took one Chapter out of it, but it is very interesting to read. I didn’t know much about the Catholic religion, (emphasis on religion) seems there is no spiritual connection at all. The Word is called the Logos, Jesus is the Logos, and the Logos is a living thing—not in the book, nor on the written pages, but in the lips of the believer. 1Cor. 2, says that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned. But the Catholics believes that the average person “the fundamentalist” does not have the capability to interpret scripture. I have to agree to some extent, I believe a person must be born again, before he can understand the message that God is trying to convey to His people. They must have left out of their bible 1Cor. 2, and other passages that speaks of the indwelling Spirit. 1Jo.2 says that we have an “unction” from the Holy one, and ye know all things. Vs. 27 but the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you and ye need not that any man teach you, but as the same anointing that teaches you of all things and is truth, and is no lie and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.
I posted the whole chapter, I wish everyone would read it.